Letting Go vs Letting Yourself Go

Man laying on couch with food

Have you ever seen the cartoons where the character catches a whiff of something tasty…

…like freshly baked cookies on a neighbor’s kitchen counter? You can actually see the scent drifting toward the character. Then, upon catching the scent, the character’s feet rise slowly off the ground and the character floats, allowing himself to be gently drawn by the scent and pulled toward its source.  This is letting go.

In contrast–but often confused with it and used interchangeably with it–is letting yourself go. This is something much different.

Letting yourself go is giving up caring about yourself. When you let yourself go, you stop caring about your health or happiness, about other people and life. Letting yourself go is throwing your hands up and exclaiming, “What’s the point!”

That’s nihilism, not spirituality.

It happens when you cave in to the pressure to live up to some expectation of yourself—from within or outside yourself—by abandoning not just those expectations, but any expectations at all. Such as for being your best self, living your best life, and making meaning out of meaninglessness.

You give up on working toward a vision for yourself and just take what you can get. You fall into apathy and inactivity, indecision, and, ultimately, despair.

This isn’t you, though.

To the contrary: you care quite a lot. You know this because you’re reading this. You know this because you have fears about what letting go might mean for you.

You fear that, if you leave anyone else in charge, you’ll end up looking and feeling quite differently than you believe you should.

You worry that eating healthy means you’ll be forced to stop eating foods you love. That allowing yourself to be less concerned about how you look or dress or how people perceive you means you’ll stop caring about how you look. That you’ll start walking around looking like a slob. Or worse, wallowing at home in your own mess.

Surrendering to your higher self does carry with it the possibility for huge changes–in your job, family, relationship, lifestyle—but the truth is those changes are still your own to make. Your higher self is still a part of YOU! (See the word “self” in there?) It is your own personal divinity. And, it won’t steer you wrong because you would never do that to yourself. It loves you because it IS you.

You must trust in this like you would in a higher power, because it is your own personal power. Your higher self is the light, it’s still your choice whether to follow it–and that’s where letting go comes in.

In the story of the cartoon earlier, the character already loves yummy treats. If the scent trail represents the higher self the character is following, the only reason the action occurs is because the scent is attractive and appealing to the character. It “knows” what he desires, what he values, and simply helps guide him to the fulfillment of that desire.

Trust in your higher self to guide you toward the things you value and desire.

Another common fear about releasing control is that, once you make the choice, once you start changing and making changes according to that guidance, there’s no turning back. But, what you have to remember is that you are always in control of yourself, even when you give up control over your life and others. You always have the power, ultimately, to change your mind and change your behavior.

You can follow one path up the mountain, then change course–for whatever reason. You can turn left or right, or you can retrace your steps back to an earlier point in the trek and choose a different direction. Trusting in your own personal divinity self does not mean abdicating your own personal power. It means choosing to align that power with a wisdom larger than yourself yet still intimately and inextricably connected with yourself. To mix metaphors for a moment, you’re still steering the car; your higher self is simply the GPS. Follow it or don’t. Change directions or get yourself momentarily lost, and the GPS says what?


Ultimately, it will still always take you where you want to go.

Remember, you can have your intentions. In fact, keep them close and hold them dear. That’s how your higher self knows where to direct you. You can have your instincts and your intuition. That’s how you can trust to keep yourself out of trouble. What you don’t have, when you let go, is the false belief that you know–or need to know–why you’re taking a certain path or how to get where you want to go. Leave that to the one who does–your higher self–and simply enjoy and trust in the journey.


Sage Kalmus

Author: Sage Kalmus

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